When it comes to streaming services, what companies don’t say is often as important as what they do.
A good general rule: The more clarity a company provides about its paying subscribers, the more confident that company is in its streaming performance. Netflix has consistently been a leader in terms of statistical clarity, providing ARPU and subscriber numbers in many regions of the country. Disney is another standout. (Both still don’t break out how many subscribers come from promotional wireless offerings, rather than pure signups, but maybe one day).
Newly-named Paramount Global (formerly ViacomCBS) finally revealed specifics about its streaming services, including the number of Paramount+ subscribers (more than 32 million) and its average revenue per user (about $9 per month). Not coincidentally, Paramount also added 9.4 million global streaming subscribers and 10 million Pluto TV users in the quarter — strong results that perhaps suggest longer-term viability for the company than some skeptics had anticipated.
NBCUniversal‘s Peacock also revealed more specificity this past quarter, including ARPU near $10. Still, Peacock’s reveal that only 9 million subscribers are paying for the service is an acknowledgment that the service is lagging its paid competition. (NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC.)
Apple still hasn’t told investors much about how many people are watching or paying for Apple TV+, a sign it hasn’t gained much traction in the streaming wars.
The following is an updated rundown of where all the major streaming services stand after reporting earnings for the calendar fourth quarter.
Netflix shares plummeted this quarter after forecasting just 2.5 million new net subscribers for next quarter. Its 8.3 million adds in the fourth quarter were slightly under its own forecast of 8.5 million. Netflix’s low first-quarter forecast — most analysts had estimated about 4 million to 7 million adds — spooked investors so much, it’s fair to wonder if the total addressable market for streaming video is lower than many had assumed. A January price increase in the U.S. and Canada may not help matters regarding slowing growth. Or, perhaps, the first quarter estimate will just be a small blip on Netflix’s path toward world domination. Still, Netflix at least alluded to the idea that competition from other services could be making future growth more difficult.
Disney was arguably the biggest winner this quarter, gaining 11.7 million Disney+ subscribers on the strength of Marvel shows and movies and The Beatles documentary “Get Back.” Disney’s secondary products, Hulu and ESPN+, also showed strength — both gaining subscribers and while raising ARPU. Disney reaffirmed its target of reaching 230 million to 260 million Disney+ subscribers by 2024.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon hiked the price of its Prime membership for the first time in four years. Amazon is spending nearly $500 million on just the first season of “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” which is set to debut later this year on Sept. 2. That sets up Amazon to have a surge in fourth-quarter subscribers later this year — when Amazon also gets the exclusive rights to “Thursday Night Football” for the first time.
Apple‘s strongest growth product category this quarter aside from iPhones was in its services business, which includes video subscription services. Apple’s services grew 26% annually, higher than the company expected. Apple hasn’t broken out subscriber numbers or ARPU figures for Apple TV+ yet.
Peacock is on pace to top the company’s initial projections of 30 million to 35 million monthly active users by 2024. Still, Disney upped its initial projection of 60 million to 90 million subscribers all the way up to 230 million to 260 million, while NBCUniversal hasn’t changed its original estimate yet.
The first quarter of 2022 could be a good one for Peacock, which aired both The Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics on the service.
The newly named Paramount Global (formerly ViacomCBS) added a record-breaking 9.4 million global streaming subscribers in the fourth quarter, totaling more than 56 million. For the first time, the company broke out Paramount+ subscriber numbers and ARPU figures for Paramount+ and Pluto TV.
The Lionsgate subsidiary showed 44% streaming subscriber growth from a year ago and said it remained on track to hit 50 million to 60 million subscribers by 2025. Lionsgate said in November it’s officially exploring spinning off Starz after several attempts at selling the premium cable network and streaming service didn’t result in a deal.
WarnerMedia’s HBO and HBO Max
AT&T said last year HBO Max would have between 120 million and 150 million subscribers by 2025, including its advertising-based video on demand subscribers, which pay just $9.99 for the service (compared to $14.99 without ads). AT&T is in the process of merging WarnerMedia, which owns HBO Max, with Discovery Communications. That deal is expected to close as soon as April.
Discovery added 2 million subscribers in the fourth quarter as it awaits closure of its merger with WarnerMedia. CEO David Zaslav suggested to CNBC in recent weeks the benefit of combining Discovery with WarnerMedia is to showcase the strength of both companies’ content. That implies he plans to either bundle Discovery+ with HBO Max for a discount or offer a new combined product of both streaming services when the deal closes.
AMC Networks launched a premium AMC+ subscription bundle in Canada and Australia on Apple TV channels and Amazon Prime Video Channels. Interim CEO Matt Blank reaffirmed the company would reach 20 million to 25 million streaming subscribers by the end of 2025. Blank said in a statement that “2022 will be the biggest year for original content in our history, including the highly-anticipated returns of ‘Better Call Saul’ and ‘Killing Eve.'”
Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC.